I was sitting in the car, another traffic jam, reading Chocolate, a glossy full of elegant women who appear to have only time to dress, undress and paint their faces and bodies. Glossies are the same the world over. Chocolate is a cross between Red and Vogue and Hello. It’s full of Angolan people – mainly women – who are making it.
It. Don’t be difficult.
I was gazing at a woman’s legs. She was wearing leopard shoes and a very short dress. Her legs were beautiful. I was thinking about my legs. They used to be extremely beautiful, but they aren’t any more. I don’t mind as much as I used to – there’s more to life than legs – but it’s taken me a long time to get there. So I was gazing at her legs and marvelling at their length, and wondering how long and thin they really were and how much was down to photographic trickery. Not much, I suspect. My friend, who was driving, peered over every now and then, to gaze at the legs too. Then he bought me a bag of cashews for 500 kwanzas (about five US dollars) and we began slowly chewing and chipping away on the nuts waiting to reach the front of the jam.
Eventually I got bored of Chocolate. We’d read all of it, even the recipe for a hot chocolate mousse sponge, so I started gazing out the window.
Old Cuban structures. Faded grey. And pink. And peeling pale yellow. And peeling nursery blue.
Hawkers. Why are they called hawkers? There is nothing hawk-like about the people who weave around 4X4s inhaling petrol, whilst trying to sell their wares. I must have missed the point somewhere.
Motorbikes. We talked a bit about them.
‘I’m going to buy one.’
‘You’re stupid. You’ll get killed.’
‘But look at the traffic – we haven’t been moving for the past 20 minutes.’
‘Yes, it’s the only way to get about. Buy a helmet.’
I gazed to the side. And saw an apparently very normal site. A long, dark, soft body wrapped in filthy charcoal cloth sleeping on the pavement under the narrow shade of a young malnourished tree. Such a deep sleep. So much going on around him, but he slept solidly. Occasionally, a hawker approached to share in the shade of the tree – but at a distance. Just in case. Such a peaceful place, such a tired body, it seemed a little cruel to express any fear. He was sleeping happily. I watched, willing him never to wake up again to the world of begging and pissing. There was something extraordinary about this body. Some charisma. Something enchanting. I think it was his arm, his right arm stretching out away from his body, stretching towards the thin trunk of the tree, providing his head with a small pillow of support. Not just his arm, but his hand, and fingers. Large, strong but also soft, composed and sensitive. His fingers almost reaching out but too tired to stretch.
‘He looks like something out of a painting, that painting.’
‘Ah, look, we’re moving now.’
We drove away, skipping over the lights as they fell back to red, lurching into Kinaxixi.
I’m not mad, you know. That was Adam.